Two Amazing Baptisms!
A sermon based on Mark 1:4–11
Sunday, January 11, 2015 – Epiphany 1B
Today we celebrate two baptisms: Of course we just baptized baby Faith. And that does make it a very special day especially for her. But we celebrate another baptism: the Baptism of our Lord, Jesus. And it's really this second baptism that gives power to the first. And it's Jesus' baptism that makes yours what it is too. So today we're going to take a look at those two baptisms—Jesus' and yours—and we'll see how amazing both are! Our sermon text is found in Mark 1:4-11…
4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
I. Jesus' Baptism
Do you remember the keyword for the book of Mark? It's amazing! I don't mean it's amazing that you don't remember. I mean that the keyword for the book of mark is amazing.
Over and over again in his Gospel Mark uses that word—amazing!—as he shows how Jesus amazed people again and again with his power and with his miracles, with his sacrifice and with his resurrection. This Epiphany season we're going to take all of our sermon texts from Mark's Gospel and we'll be amazed at Jesus again as he reveals his true identity. Jesus truly was and is amazing!
And this morning, even though Mark doesn't use the word amazing in our text, there are some truly amazing things that he describes.
First off, isn't it kind of amazing that this whole event of Jesus' baptism even took place at all? After all, "John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
"For the forgives of sins"? But we know that Jesus was sin-less. He had no sins to be forgiven! So why in the world did he need to be baptized?! If you've wondered that before, you're in good company. John thought the same thing. In fact, he initially told Jesus, "no." He said, "I need to be baptized by you, not the other way around."
But Jesus explained. He said, "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." (cf. Matthew 3:14-15) That answer still seems kind of cryptic and some have took it to mean that Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill the law and be perfect. But… there was no law that said one had to be baptized.
A better understanding of this event is that Jesus was identifying with us sinners, pretending as if he were a sinner in need of baptism as he took our place in order to fulfill God's plan of bringing righteousness to us. By taking our place is how he would fulfill all righteousness. Pretty amazing isn't it?!
So, "Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan." And then some amazing things happened!
"As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open…" What does that look like? Heaven being torn open? It wasn't just the clouds parting like you see in the Bible story books. It says heaven itself was torn open. Like the curtain that hid God in the Holy of Holies, heaven itself was now torn in two as God condescended to earth! What an amazing sight that must have been!
Then… "he saw… the Spirit descending on him like a dove." Out of the torn heavens the Holy Spirit came to earth! And notice that he wasn't a dove, but like a dove. Yet nevertheless, he did come down in bodily form. (cf. Luke 3:22) It's almost like another incarnation where God takes on physical, tangible, bodily form! Amazing!
But there's more! The amazing things kept coming! "And a voice came from heaven…" I can only imagine what that must have sounded like! Was it like peals of thunder? Like loud roaring waters? Like a soft, gentle whisper? I can only imagine it in a deep resonating bass, not in a high-pitched tenor, but I could be wrong. But either way, God the Father audibly spoke for human ears to hear! How amazing that must have been!
But finally, all of these amazing things happened that God might reveal an amazing truth to John and to us: "And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God. He is the perfect Son of God who the Father always loved, who always perfectly pleased the Father. He is the Son of God who came to earth. He is the Son of God who came to earth… to take our place.
He is the Son of God who came to earth to identify with us sinners, pretending as if he were a sinner in need of baptism as he took our place in order to fulfill God's plan of bringing righteousness to us. That's truly amazing!
And because he is true God, we know what his perfect life and innocent death have accomplished. Because the Father who dearly loved his Son would later abandon his Son to hell on that cross, we are saved! We are forgiven of all the times we've failed to be amazed by God's grace to us but have approached it with a ho-hum attitude that says, "Oh, I already know all of that."
We are forgiven! And that's truly amazing! For we don't deserve it one bit! We are forgiven and we receive the benefits of all that Jesus has done, of all the righteousness he came to fulfill, when we are connected to him by faith—a faith given to us through the Word and a faith given to us by baptism…
II. Your Baptism
Now all of these things that happened at Jesus' baptism truly are amazing! There has never been any baptism like it before or since. But there's another truly amazing baptism where some amazing things happened too: Your baptism.
In fact, John talked about it—about your baptism!—at the banks of the Jordan River. "This was his message: 'After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'"
When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit came to you and did his work of making you clean. Through your Baptism he delivered to you the blessings that God promised. He created faith in your heart or strengthened the faith that was already there. He led you to repent, that is, to change your mind—about your sin, about your condition, about your greatest need: a Savior from sin. He led you to trust in what God has done for you through Jesus, what he accomplished for you on the cross. And considering the fact that we're all born spiritually dead, blind to God's ways, hostile to him, that is truly amazing!
And through that faith he created, the Holy Spirit brought each of you who are baptized the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won. So our Baptism is "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." You are sin free! You are perfect! You are holy! Isn't that amazing?!
And what's more, he didn't just take your sin away and then leave you alone. No! He adopted you to be his own! He says in Galatians 3(:26-27), "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Through your baptism God has adopted you as his own child whom he promises to guard and protect until he gives you your inheritance as his child! Now God says of you, "You are my [child], whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Truly amazing, isn't it?
And what's more, through your baptism you now have the power to not sin! Paul wrote in Romans 6(:3-4,11-12), "All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were… buried with him through baptism… in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead… we too may live a new life… Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…. Do not let sin reign in your… body so that you obey its evil desires." You have the power to resist temptation, to put your sin aside and leave it behind, and to live for God in thanks for what he's done for you! God has given you this power through your baptism! Amazing!
What amazing baptisms, dear friends! What amazing things took place at the Jordan River when Jesus was baptized! What amazing things happened at the baptismal font at your baptism! Thank God for these two amazing baptisms, every day, dear friends, and remember every day, how through your baptism, God has forgiven your sins, how he has clothed you with Christ, how he's adopted you to be his own, how he's empowered you to live for him in thanks for all he's done for you. Amazing isn't it? Rejoice, in Jesus' baptism and in yours, dear friends! In his name, amen.